Lessons Learned

Today I am reminded of William Saroyan’s words, “Everybody has to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case.”

At the beginning of my mission the thought of writing my last letter home seemed impossibly far away. I always knew that missionaries go home, but I guess I never realized that it would one day come to an end. That’s something that’s been really hard for me to grasp the last few days. At the beginning I couldn’t wait to be done, now, I just wish I could go back to my time in Singen. I just wish I had six more months, but I know that if I had six more months at the end of that time, I would be begging the Lord to give me more time. Time is such a fickle thing. A missionary who went home about a year ago said, “Time is so unforgiving to a dying missionary.” I cannot tell you how true that statement is.

Sister (Michelle) Jaynes wrote me a letter in which she described the sensation as “a rollercoaster” and all you want to do is “get off and throw-up.” Das stimmt, Bruder! oder…Schwester…

Today we spent our P-day with Oma Voigt. She’s the most adorable, loving, sweet woman that I know, and I am going to miss her so much! When we were eating lunch at her house I was crying because of how sad I am that I am leaving on Thursday. But I have the opportunity to see her again on Thursday morning (she’s going to bring us to Bahnhof with all of my bags). I have met so many people that I am going to miss and that I will forever remember in my heart. I will always keep these people close to me because they have become family. Granted, I am so grateful for the people that I have left at home, the people that I will be seeing on Friday and those that I will be hugging and freuing myself to see.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the back of the chapel, translating for Wisdom, a member who just moved into our branch, when Präsident Frank asked me to stand up. Everyone in the chapel turned around to look at me, some knowing why I was standing and others beginning to realize. Präsident Frank told the branch that I had successfully completed my mission and that I would be returning home to my family on Friday. Then with tears in his eyes he asked me to come up and bear my testimony. I could feel the weight of sadness and grief weighing on my shoulders as I went up and stood at the podium and I felt the tears forming in my eyes. I looked out at all the faces that I had come to know and love and the people that had found themselves so deep in my heart that there would be no way to remove them.  I stood there and with teary choked German told them how much I loved them. I started crying harder as I saw the tears in their eyes. But the comfort of the gospel of Jesus Christ is something that will get us all though. Because for the faithful, for the righteous, and for the strong in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are no true good-byes. Only bis aufwiedersehen.

But to move away from the things that make me sad about leaving, I am so grateful that I get to go home and to see my family. I have missed them, but I know that the time that I spent away will only make this reunion all the sweeter.

I decided that for my last email, I would simply share with you all the lessons I have learned on my mission. Lessons that I am so grateful I learned, even though they were difficult.

As I thought about this these last few days I realized that there were many lessons I’ve learned, many things I had to learn the hard way because I was too stubborn to learn it the easy way. But however I learned these lessons, I am eternally grateful I met the decision to go on a mission.

I could list off all the things I learned in this refiner’s fire, but instead I think I’ll stick to the greatest lessons the Lord could have taught me, the lessons He presumably sent me here to learn.

Before my mission I was short-tempered (I’m not sure how much this has really improved, but I would say there’s been some definite progress.), easy to offend, and one of the most prideful twenty-one year old you had ever met. I came on my mission assuming that I would be enjoying a nice vacation baptizing twenty or so people, coming home with stories of a miracle filled mission that would one day end up in the Liahona and would be talked about in General Conference. I assumed I would be the most proficient at the language and that I would have the ability to communicate with people about the gospel and show them the way to baptism with grace, poise, and ease.

I do believe the Lord sent me on my mission to humble me.

The Lord knew, when He was inspiring the apostle assigning me to my mission, that I would need to have some hard times, I would need to struggle and I would need to work. Hard. And that’s why He sent me to the Alpine German-Speaking mission. And it was the greatest decision that He ever made. And here I am, a humbled servant of the Lord. I have learned that the miracles aren’t always going to come in grand flashes of heavenly fire, or sixty five people getting baptized in the Bodensee. But I am so grateful for that lesson of humility. I have learned so much about being grateful for the small and simple things, the small things that before I never noticed. Now I am just so grateful if someone will give me the time of day on the bus! But the Lord is so wise, and He knows His children very well.

I would say the second important lesson that the Lord wanted to teach me was patience. Oh how glad I am that the Lord taught me PATIENCE! Granted, I am still anxious and antsy for certain things, but I had to learn that the blessings that I want won’t always come on my timeline. The Lord has His knowledge, His plan and His way. And thank goodness cause it’s a lot better than mine. I have had to learn to leave that in His hands, and it’s something I’m still learning.

But the most important lesson that Heavenly Father wanted me to learn on my mission was how to love other people. I will admit that I did not know how to love people before I came to do the Lord’s work that REQUIRED love. “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” (D&C 4:5) Thank goodness the Lord qualifies those that He calls. I needed some major qualifying and I needed some help figuring out how to love people. And I can tell you that if I hadn’t figured out how to love these people, I would not have enjoyed my mission like I did. And I am so grateful that the Lord was able to take the time and the patience to teach me such an important lesson. Because He wants His children to be loved and He’s going to prepare people that will love them and I am so grateful that I have been, and hopefull will continue to be, one of those people.

I had to learn that there is good in all people and you can always find a reason to love someone. Even someone who has wronged you, hurt you, or ignored you. My capacity to love has grown so much and I have, on more than one occassion, felt a little like the Grinch as he stood on Mount Krumpet and felt his heart grow three sizes. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the sizes of heaven, my heart has grown twelve sizes. ANd how grateful I am for that growth.

I wish I could tell you everything that I had learned, but the time is short, and I have a lifetime still to tell you everything. Just know that I love you all and I am so excited to see you on Friday. Thank you for the LOVE you have given me and the ways that you have supported me. I have felt your prayers and your love from accross the world. There have been times on lonely buses, surrounded by people, or alone on my knees in a train bathroom, that I have felt your prayers and your love crossing the boundaries of space and time, and I have felt so much peace in those moments. The Lord has let me feel the love and the support you have given me and words in any tongue cannot express how eternally grateful I am for that. Thank you so much!

I love you all.

Sister Hammock
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